Salem addresses accident without mentioning DWI arrest

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POUGHKEEPSIE- Sarah Salem, chair of Poughkeepsie’s Common Council, addressed the public for the first time since running a red light, hitting another vehicle, resulting in her getting arrested on DWI charges last week.

Salem was previously arrested by State Police on a DWI charge in 2017 in Wappingers Falls.  More recently, the 29-year-old elected official was placed in handcuffs following an incident on February 26 in the city she represents.

The recent arrest followed an incident in which police say Salem was traveling west on Main Street, ran a red light at North Bridge Street, and struck a vehicle heading east on Main. The other vehicle was operated by a young woman who is related to Natasha Cherry, another member of the common council.

Council Chair Sarah Salem, on right, being placed in handcuffs by a City of Poughkeepsie Police Officer on February 26.

The car operated by Cherry’s relative suffered significant damage and the operator was traumatized but uninjured in the collision. Salem’s Chevrolet Volt was also damaged but she was uninjured.  The city cops investigating the wreck ended up arresting Salem on a DWI charge.

Mid-Hudson News made several attempts to contact Salem regarding the recent crash and arrest as well as the previous DWI arrest in Wappingers Falls.  Salem did not respond to the multitude of attempted contacts.

On Monday evening, the common council convened with Salem at the helm.  Prior to allowing public remarks, the second-term elected official announced the rules for comment, reminding the public that they were to refrain from singling out specific members.  

Salem also told the city residents “I was in an accident last week,” adding that she was “incredibly grateful that nobody was injured” while failing to address the subsequent DWI charge.  Salem indicated that she was prohibited from making further comments on the advice of legal counsel.

Several members of the public took turns at the podium and chastised Salem without naming her directly.  A few speakers also spoke and showed empathy, including a comment from Amelia Miller who said “I understand that things happen.”

The vehicle that was struck when Salem allegedly ran a red light on Main Street.

Satara Brown, a well-known community activist, was much more critical in her comments.  “You’re not setting a good example for the community,” said Brown, while asking for Salem’s resignation in light of the repeated alcohol-related infractions.

Outspoken critic of the common council, Laurie Sandow, called Salem’s alleged choice to drive drunk “a willful act of violence.”  City resident and property owner Ken Stickle admonished Salem’s alcohol-related history and said “I hope you get help!”  Stickle is also the owner of a house that was gutted by fire Monday morning and chastised DPW Commissioner Chris Gent for not allowing him to bring construction equipment to the site in an attempt to secure the building and maintain public safety.